2019 General elections: After Adebiro, what has happened to the other petitions in court..

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A deserted Supreme Court after all the bustle on Wednesday. In recent months, it has witnessed various developments in other election petition cases.

A deserted Supreme Court after all the bustle on Wednesday. In recent months, it has witnessed various developments in other election petition cases.

With the major development on Wednesday in the case of MMM’s Jenny Adebiro, who is contesting the election of ML’s Ivan Collendavelloo in no. 19, what is likely to happen to the many other election petitions that are still pending?

Duval and the Evremont affidavit 

PMSD’s Adrien Duval, who is contesting the results of the 2019 election in No. 17 recently wanted to add evidence in his election petition, an affidavit by Marie Olivia Cassandra Evremont. Her affidavit was to be included to buttress Duval’s arguments in his petition where he referred to what he termed “suspicious ballot papers”. Evremont’s affidavit supported the claim in Duval’s petition that as much as half of all the ballot papers in counting room No 13 appeared older, unfolded and filled in by pencil, as opposed to other ballots used. Duval argued that despite a counting agent noticing the ballot papers, they were counted anyway. 

The problem in Duval’s case is that he did not produce Evremont, who lives in Malherbes in Curepipe, in court to testify about her affidavit. Duval’s legal team argued that this was because she had just given birth, but they did not produce a medical certificate. On October 19, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled against allowing Duval to include Evremont’s affidavit as part of his case.

Ramgoolam and the MBC 

The election petition of Navin Ramgoolam contesting the election of Vikram Hurdoyal, Zahid Nazurally and Sunil Bholah in constituency No. 10 faced mixed results recently. Hurdoyal, Nazurally and Bholah tried to attack Ramgoolam’s petition for leaving out 55 other candidates who stood in that election. On November 19, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled that leaving out these 55 candidates made no difference to the petition, given that those 55 candidates “have no interest in the matter and their rights will not be affected by the decision of this court taking into account the low amount of votes in their favour compared to the first eight candidates”. 

Ramgoolam’s petition ran into trouble, however, when the three government MPs pointed out that although the petition criticised prime minister Pravind Jugnauth and the role of the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation, he did not include them in the petition. That same day, the court argued that the parts of Ramgoolam’s related to Jugnauth and the MBC “cannot indeed be decided behind the back of the Prime Minister and the MBC as doing so will be tantamount to leaving the one-sided version of events of the petitioner unrebutted”. Since it was way past the 21-day limit after an election to enter a petition, the Supreme Court dismissed those parts of Ramgoolam’s petition relating to the prime minister and the MBC.

Cader Sayed-Hossen and the Electoral Commissioner’s duties 

Labour Party’s Cader Sayed-Hossen, who is demanding a recount in No.15 attempted to introduce a new argument into his case recently. One of the planks of Sayed-Hossen’s case are the 6,800 voters not registered for the 2019 polls. In his official reply to the Electoral Commissioner’s Office in court, Sayed-Hossen argued that registration officers compiling the register of electors, “have to ascertain whether a person has indeed left the constituency or has left his given address for another address in the same constituency and therefore a follow-up as to where that elector has moved on to is required for registration officers and assistant registration officers to properly discharge their duties”. Sayed-Hossen’s original petition had made a three-fold argument: that people had been left off the register because it was “wrongly compiled”, that the Electoral Commissioner had not recruited the right people to register electors, and that his office had failed to notice that an “unusual number” of electors had been left off the rolls in 2019. 

With his new argument, Sayed-Hossen seemed to be now arguing that it was the duty of registration officers to find out where people had moved as well. On September 7, 2021, the Supreme Court did not allow Sayed-Hossen to bring in this new line of reasoning, ruling that Sayed-Hossen did not include any of this in his original petition and was trying to bring in a new argument: “It is not part of the petitioner’s case under paragraph 16 or anywhere else in his petition that it is his contention that the register of electors for the constituency No.15 was wrongly compiled due to the failure of registration officers to properly exercise their duties in the survey of electors.”

Navarre-Marie, Baloomoody and the ‘computer room’ 

MMM’s Arianne Navarre-Marie, Veda Baloomoody and Louis Giovanni Catherine wanted in July 2021 to get the Master and Registrar of the Supreme Court to order electoral commissioner Irfan Rahman and returning officer for No.1, Pravin Hurrah, to submit to cross-examination over their “personal answers”, in response to the MMM candidates’ petition. What they wanted to question Rahman and Hurrah about, the affidavit lodged by the MMM candidates argued, was to ask both about the so-called ‘computer room’. This was necessary, they argued, “in order to thrash out all the issues before the honourable court and in particular, the necessity to have data input in the computer found in the computer room without us and other candidates being informed of this process and without us being present during such process”. The ESC lawyers put in a motion asking that the court dispense with the motion to grill Rahman and Hurrah.

Suren Dayal and the issue of Désiré Basset 

The issue of Désiré Basset representing prime minister Pravind Jugnauth came up after Labour Party’s Suren Dayal, who is demanding the annulment of the results of No.8, Jugnauth’s home constituency in the 2019 elections, started a parallel private prosecution against Jugnauth at Port-Louis District Court. What Dayal wanted the Supreme Court to do was declare that Basset – formerly a member of the ESC – could not represent Jugnauth in that case, given that Basset in the ESC had allegedly dealt with allegations of overspending in constituency No. 8 during the last election campaign. 

However on December 9, 2021 the Supreme Court refused to wade into the issue stating that it was to the Bar Council to decide whether lawyers act ethically or not: “Unless there are absolutely compelling reasons and very exceptional circumstances warranting the interference of the court, it is for counsel to decide whether by appearing for a party he/she is likely to be in breach of the code of ethics and measure the consequences of any breach thereof… this type of motion unsupported by any solid legal foundation should be strongly and strenuously discouraged as it may open the floodgate to baseless attempts at challenging the appearance of counsel and thereby disrupting the timely and orderly despatch of cases and seriously jeopardising the effective administration of justice. The present motion is indeed a gross abuse of the process of the court.”

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